When’s the right time to bring in beta readers?

Hi everyone! Hope you’re all enjoying this awfully hot summer. I’m still amazed at how quickly time is passing, but I’m happy to say that everything is progressing at a good pace (writing-wise, wedding-wise, etc).

Earlier this spring, I invited my very first round of beta readers to read my YA adventure WIP, Flare! For a couple weeks before then, I was constantly revising, adding new passages, little details, you name it.

There were times where I considered pushing off my beta readers so I could keep revising. Which led me to the question: when IS the right time to bring in beta readers?

One thing I learned: the answer is NOT when your draft is perfect, because it will never be.
That was the biggest problem of my first novel: I was so nervous to share my work, so worried they’d judge me (people I trust deeply, no less) or think I was a bad writer, that I just kept it all hidden away, waiting for the “right moment” to share it. I was waiting for some magical moment where I WOULDN’T be nervous to share my work, where it would be so perfect that they wouldn’t have any edits or critiques at all.

After too much time wasted, I had to accept that the magical moment wouldn’t exist. I would always be at least a bit nervous, because it’s hard to lay your soul bare and have people suggest changes. That it was okay to be nervous, but to share my work in spite of it. To trust the people I was sharing my words with and know that they’re only here to help me, not to tear me down.

So this time around, I was very aware of my subconscious desire to not share anything until it was perfect. And I fought against that constantly. I routinely reminded myself “this book isn’t perfect, but I need their help to make it better.”

I also kept myself to a mostly strict deadline. I’m applying to Pitch Wars later this year, which means I have a very real, not at all made up deadline to keep myself on track. I came up with what I hope is a realistic timeline for revisions, beta readers, more revisions, additional edits, even more revisions, etc. Beta readers are a critical part of my timeline, and I wanted to make sure I gave them enough time to read, while also giving myself enough time to edit based on their feedback. My deadline ultimately landed on April 15 for it to go to beta readers.

While I repeatedly reminded myself my work would not be perfect by April 15, I also asked myself, “What are the MOST important revisions I need to make before then?”

A few points immediately came to mind. I knew I really wanted to fix the ending, add in  more world building points, and some more background details on the main characters. And I wanted it to be solid spelling/grammar-wise. There were a lot more improvements I want to do, but these were the top priority. 

Then I made a secondary list that, if I finished my top improvements, would come next. After that, my tertiary list. And so it went until April 14, mere minutes before Game of Thrones was returning.

So, was my draft perfect? No. But it was at the point where I know beta readers would bring invaluable insight to help me make it better. I did all of my priority revisions and then some. I’m at a place where the story and plot itself are consistent.

Now the hard part: diving through the mounds of feedback and making this story shine!

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